Monday, March 14, 2022

Tales From The Light Grey Market

"They have one great redeeming feature: their wallets. More capacious than an elephant's scrotum and just as difficult to get your hands on."
Rowan Atkinson as Edmund Blackadder

News reached the North Shore offices of Tempus Fugit this morning that (insert gasp here) Watch Brand A was being offered at discount prices on (insert second, more profound gasp here) unauthorized retail webstore X!

And to read the commentary on the official Brand A discussion forum, it is clear that several fans of the brand are walking around feeling as if they've been "two-timed" by an unfaithful boyfriend / girlfriend the night before the Junior Prom. This has left them with that awkward sense of anger, disappointment and bewilderment:

"Should I cancel the whole thing and lose the deposit on the limo, or just act like I don't know and go as if nothing has happened?"

The simple reality is that Brand A version 3.0 has made a lot of watches, maybe too many. They have over 10 different dive watch models currently available, and that's just the model versions. Multiply that by the number of color options available and that's a lot of similar SKUs. Whether or not the watches that have now been dumped into the grey market by an official retailer, a distributor, or the brand itself is irrelevant. Irrelevant, that is, to the customer who bought at full price through an authorized retail partner. 

For many Brand A owners and those who dream of owning one, buying one is a financial stretch. And if we are being completely honest about it, a watch that costs more than $100 is a stretch for a lot of people. It is a luxury. Now imagine how that customer feels when the same watch that they bought from the brand at full price one week ago shows up on an unauthorized (but legitimate) retail store's website at 28% LESS than what they just paid?

Now to be fair, the watch business is just that - a business. And this is the thing that is often misunderstood or overlooked by watch enthusiasts. For many folks working for the brands, it is a job, not necessarily a calling. And that's as it should be.
Courtesy of Wikipedia, Richard Nelson Bolles author, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA publisher.
And before you (the watch enthusiast) points your finger and chides the brand employee who is not as enamored by the world of watches as you are, have a look in the mirror. It is a truly small number of people who are lucky enough to work in a field that they are passionate about. Do you go to bed each night looking forward to going back to work the next day with the same sort of enthusiasm you had as a kid when you were on summer vacation? If it were normal to be 100% passionate about your job (hell, even your life in general), the self-help sections of bookstores around the world would be dramatically smaller than they are, and What Color Is Your Parachute? would never have seen the light of day. 

Ultimately, it is a business. So let's hope that the passionate and the pragmatic can have a meeting of the minds and find some common ground. Until then, whoever is actually handling the brand's communications might want to get a wee bit more involved on the forum that they pay to sponsor and try to actively engage with their fans.

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